Are AR and VR the New VisiCalc of Our Age?

If you know your computer history, you know that the one product that put the PC on the radar of potential business users was a product called Visicalc. Created by two brilliant people, Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston in Boston in the late 1970’s, it was the first spreadsheet designed for a PC. In this case, it was created for the Apple II, and it changed the way people did accounting projects. More importantly, while it was designed for the Apple II, which at the time was viewed as a hobbyist computer, an Apple II with Visicalc found its ways into the accounting offices of Fortune 500 companies and became an indispensable tool.

It was VisiCalc that caused IBM to kick off their PC project, which resulted in the birth of the IBM PC in 1981. IBM was highly interested in what Visicalc could to on a desktop computer like the Apple II because IBM’s history and DNA were rooted in computational calculating machines that were used in the late 30’s and most of the 40’s to manage things like the US Census as well as IRS related tabulations.

The real value of VisiCalc and subsequent spreadsheets like Lotus 123, and Microsoft’s Excel is that it introduced the “what if” concept to numerical data applications. As these spreadsheets became more powerful, asking the “what if” question has now gone well beyond just numerical equations and has become more important to all types of data-driven projects where using the “what if” questions is important to gaining insight to all types of questions.

Over the years I have been fascinated with the role computers play in answering the “what If” query since much of what is done in business productivity is focused on asking this vital question about all types of productivity projects people may be working on. As I thought about the “what if” question as it relates to today’s age of computing, it became clear to me that AR and VR technology is now being applied in many types of applications to answer this question in very new ways.

I recently met with a Prague based company called VRG who showed me what is one of the most powerful VR headsets I have seen to date. More importantly, they showed me various VR apps used by auto designers, architects, and individuals that were creating products and wanted to see them in various forms or dimensions before they created the final product. The architectural example they showed me was great in that a person can add various wall types or colors to a blank wall or floor designs to a virtual room in a virtual house home and work with with the architect in advance of building the home to their customer’s desires.

What was interesting about what VRG has is that they have licensed the hand gesture technology from Magic Leap and this is by far the best way to interact with data as the current joy stick like hand devices are less precise.

From an AR perspective, you get that same “What If” concept with AR apps like the one from Ikea. With this app you can go into a room and point at it an empty room and then, using a side menu that has furniture, lights, etc., you can drop them into the empty room to see what they would look like in that room should you buy these products from Ikea.

To be fair, we have 2D apps that can do some of this now, but with AR you get new forms of visualization added to various “what if” scenarios and with VR you can be in the virtual house or virtual car being designed to see a final product or solution. In fact, I think of VR in this case as a WYSIWYG What if a solution that adds more accuracy and new dimensions to the many “what if” scenarios for both business and consumers.

Computers are essential for helping with “what if’ questions and PC’s were and still are key tools for working with “what if” scenarios. However, I see AR and VR being the next generation of technology to deliver even greater ways to answering new forms of “what if” questions in the next two decades.

Published by

Tim Bajarin

Tim Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc. He is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin has been with Creative Strategies since 1981 and has served as a consultant to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry including IBM, Apple, Xerox, Compaq, Dell, AT&T, Microsoft, Polaroid, Lotus, Epson, Toshiba and numerous others.

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